College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

From left: Dr Hammed Abass, Dr Olawale Kazeem Oyewole and Dr Akindele Adebayo Mebawondu.

Three UKZN Scientists Awarded for Excellence in Maths and Statistics Research

Two researchers and an alumnus of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) have received awards for their work while UKZN has been recognised as the node institution with the highest number of publications for 2021.

The successes were announced during the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)/National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences’ (CoE-MaSS) eighth anniversary celebrations.

CoE-MaSS comprises researchers from 23 node institutions in South Africa which specialise in pure mathematics, applied mathematics and statistics and aims to advance cross-disciplinary research topics and develop national capacity in these fields. Its 12 focus areas are dynamic and align with the Centre’s expertise, and with local and global research niches.

At the anniversary celebration, CoE-MaSS Director Professor Fazal Mahomed recalled the creation of the Centre as a major research network in South Africa with a significant footprint in mathematical sciences, emphasising its existence to serve students and researchers in MaSS fields to advance South Africa’s development.

Of the universities affiliated to CoE-Mass, UKZN was the most productive in 2021, being awarded R40 000 in research grants to further research in the SMSCS. These grants are earmarked for training and research-related activities to accelerate the careers of young researchers.

Speaking at the event, Dean and Head of the SMCS Professor Delia North thanked the CoE-MaSS for its generous funding of postgraduate students at UKZN, saying it contributed to the performance of these disciplines.

Dr Olawale Kazeem Oyewole, a postdoctoral fellow at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, received the award for the CoE-MaSS-funded student with the highest number of publications in 2021. His PhD research at UKZN, supervised by Professor Oluwatosin Mewomo and funded by CoE-MaSS, comprised an investigation into iterative solutions of some nonlinear optimisation and fixed point problems in Hilbert and Banach spaces.

In this area of real and functional analysis in mathematics, with fixed point methods being used to solve optimisation, Oyewole focused on the development of iterative methods for approximating the solutions of the various fixed point and optimisation problems, which would have applications in fields including economics, science, and engineering.

Having studied at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) in Nigeria, Oyewole discovered UKZN when Mewomo, his lecturer at FUNAAB, joined the Institution. Oyewole who enrolled in 2017, praised the University for its state-of-the-art facilities and an environment that made learning easy, saying he is a proud alumnus. He acknowledged Mewomo for his guidance and supervision.

Dr Hammed Anuoluwapo Abass, a postdoctoral researcher at UKZN, received a R10 000 award for the CoE-MaSS-funded postdoctoral researcher with more than 10 publications in 2021. His research focused on convergence results of certain optimisation problems and applications of fixed point problems to real life situations in nonlinear spaces. He explained that fixed point theory had a wide range of applications in science and technology. His work proposed different iterative methods for approximating solutions of optimisation problems, proving their respective convergence results and gave applications to real life problems where appropriate.

Abass heard about UKZN from Dr Akindele Adebayo Mebawondu, then a student at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in South Africa. Mewomo, who also lectured Abass during his undergraduate studies at FUNAAB, supervised his master’s and PhD degrees at UKZN. He thanked his colleagues, the SMSCS and the wider University community for providing an environment conducive to learning and success.

Also, a postdoctoral researcher at UKZN, Mebawondu received a R10 000 award for the CoE-MaSS-funded postdoctoral researcher with more than 10 publications in 2021. His research focused on selected topics in graph theory, fixed point theory and its application, and some of their interactions. A significant portion of his research was devoted to the application of graph theory, fixed point theory and its applications to real life problems in mathematical sciences, sciences and engineering.

After hearing about UKZN’s programmes while completing his master’s at AIMS, Mebawondu chose to enrol at the University, doing his research under the supervision of Mewomo. He praised the SMSCS for the helpful and welcoming attitude of its staff.

Abass and Mebawondu received accolades for their excellent publication record, achieving 16 and 15 publications in 2021 respectively, despite the challenges caused by COVID-19. They thanked the CoE-MaSS for funding their doctoral and postdoctoral studies.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied